Despite the name, canine ringworm does not involve any "worm". Ringworm is in fact a fungus that lives in the outer layers of the skin, nails, and hair.
Ringworm is a highly contagious fungus that can infect dogs, cats and humans.
If you have a dog with ringworm, therefore, use extreme care when handling and treating your dog. Do not allow any children to handle any pets with ringworm.
Also, due to the possibility of contagion, if you suspect that your dog has ringworm, be sure to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis.
Like all fungi, the ringworm fungus proliferates in climates that are hot and humid, and you may think that ringworm infections most likely occur in the hot summer days. Contrary to general belief, however, ringworm infections actually happen more often in autumn and winter!
The ringworm fungus affects the hair and hair follicles.
Transmission of the fungus is by spores that are present in the air, the soil, and by direct contact with the infected hair of pets and people. The spores are hardy and can survive in the environment for about 18 months.
If your dog is infected with the fungus, spores from his hair can be shed into the living environment (e.g. furniture, bedding, etc.). Moreover, the spores can attach to grooming tools and toys.
There are several species of the ringworm fungi which can infect either you or your pet.
Most cases of canine ringworm infection are caused by either Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, or Trichophyton mentagrophytes.
Canine ringworm is, fortunately, not as common as other skin diseases.
The most typical ringworm symptoms are skin lesions and hair loss. As the ringworm fungi live in hair follicles, they cause the hair shafts to break off at the skin line, resulting in patches of hair loss that are spreading outward, usually with skin lesions.
The lesions often have dry scaly and crusty skin in the "ring" center. These lesions, which may or may be itchy, usually start out small and round, but can keep growing in size.
As you can see, these symptoms mimick a number of other skin conditions, such as mange and other allergic conditions, that's why it is important to consult a vet for a proper diagnosis.
A common diagnosis is to use a special black light called Wood's lamp to look for the fluorescence of infected hairs. But not all species of the ringworm fungi fluoresce.
Moreover, spores may be found even on the haircoat of a healthy unaffected dog.
Another way and probably the most accurate diagnosis is to collect some dry scales and lesion crusts from the skin and coat and perform a culture.
The shortcoming of this method is that it may take up to 2-3 weeks for the culture to become positive.
Ringworm may be either a local infection affecting small areas (usually the head, but can also occur on the legs, feet, or tail), or more severe or generalized infections - evidence of the dog's systemic weakness.
For local infections, an antifungal ointment is usually used to treat the lesions two times per day. Alternatively, oral antifungal medications, such as Griseofulvin, or Fluconazole are prescribed.
For more serious or generalized infections, in addition to the topical treatment, antifungal shampoos or even dips will also be used.
Griseofulvin is effective in treating ringworm in dogs.
However, it can cause potential side effects, such as:
Are there safer natural remedies for dogs with ringworm? You bet! Actually, a lot of alternative remedies are not only effective, but are easy to make or obtain (not to mention cheaper than the prescription drugs!).
Visit our page on Natural Ringworm Remedies for more information.